25 November 2012

Marla Maples Spills About The Past & Present

Story first appeared on nytimes.com.

Marla Maples,, the former Mrs. Donald Trump, had made a reservation at Prime Grill in Manhattan and texted, “Let’s wear hats!” Only when I got there did I realize the steakhouse was kosher. (She was indeed wearing a hat, but it was more fedora than skullcap.)

I was roundly ignored by the host, but when Ms. Maples strode in in her leggings, cashmere sweater, bomber jacket and leather boots, we were immediately seated. The mostly male diners stopped in mid-chew to gape; she didn’t notice.
She doesn't eat dairy, so this is a great place to be if she wants to eat meat, because they don’t mix milk and meat. As it happens, “delighted” is her default expression. It’s not just that, at 49, she is shockingly gorgeous. Maybe it’s the early beauty pageant training, or all that practice smiling in front of the carnivorous paparazzi, or maybe it’s her recent decision to move back to New York City after years of a kind of self-imposed exile in Los Angeles.
Whatever the case, the woman radiates a certain fizzy joy. I remember how unflappable she was, even at 24, in the eye of one of the biggest sex scandals of the 1990s, a moment that has some resonance amid this week’s fevered coverage of the David H. Petraeus-Paula Broadwell affair. Back then, a typical day for Ms. Maples would be paparazzi barking questions.
If you weren’t in a coma during the ’90s, you know Ms. Maples. The aspiring actress’s affair with the mogul 17 years her senior that precipitated the “divorce of the century”; the confrontation on the slopes of Aspen (Marla to Ivana: “Are you in love with your husband? Because I am.”); the breakups; the engagements; the “Dynasty” hair; the breakups again; the pregnancy; and the 1993 wedding at the Plaza, the details of which are known to every self-respecting “bridezilla.” The 20-carat diamond tiara, the white double-laced Carolina Herrera gown, the contemptuous comments. “I give it four months,” Howard Stern said.
He was off by a few years (they divorced in 1999), but his point was well taken: This marriage didn’t really have “Till death do us part” written all over it. Still, for a few not-so-halcyon years, the “Georgia Peach” was the biggest news-media draw in America.
Ms. Maples has always been a romantic figure to me. I believe that for all Mr. Trump’s wealth, she married for love, and it always seemed that she was in love. She never cashed in all that much: there have been no Playboy centerfolds (she was offered $1 million), no tell-all, no reality shows. .
If she was a gold digger, she wasn’t a very good one: according to press reports, she ended up with about $2 million, the Trump equivalent of throwing her the change found under the sofa cushions. And she still resists exploiting her relatively brief fling as the other woman.
 She is reluctant to comment on today’s scandals. Of the general and his biographer, she said only  that there is so much in the world that is negative and judgmental right now. She fells uncomfortable being brought into the private recesses of someone’s personal life when uninvited.
Mr. Trump did leave her with the one asset she can’t live without: their daughter, Tiffany Ariana, a lovely girl with a blond mane and bee-stung lips who looks as if Mr. Trump and Ms. Maples were Photoshopped into one. In 1998 Ms. Maples took her daughter, who was then 5, and headed for Los Angeles. Not only because she said she needed a new start, but also because she wanted her daughter to grow up in a place where her name wouldn’t make her such a standout, and where we wouldn’t be followed around.
But this fall Ms. Maples decided it was time to return to New York. Her daughter was going to college, and she really was raised by Ms. Maples with her father and her friends. She hasn’t seen her father much throughout the years. But now, she wants to get to know him better. It’s a tough balancing act. Ms. Maples and Mr. Trump are politically on opposite ends of the spectrum, and when he began his election Twitter dispatches, Ms. Maples decided the less she knew the better. Tiffany knew about his "October surprise" and she didn’t want to even discuss it with her. She loves her father and wants to support him.
Ms. Maples is only now taking on meetings, agents, managers, endorsement deals for wellness products. (For the love of God, someone should hire this woman for a skin care line. She has no pores.) Hollywood brought bit parts; more than anything the former “Will Rogers Follies” girl would like to be back on Broadway. She is writing New Age chill-out music; a track from her new album, “The Endless,” features Deepak Chopra and LogiQ Pryce and is the first Indian-rapper mash-up I have heard in, well, forever. Next summer she is working with Globunity, a peace symposium scheduled to take place in Florence, Italy. Her title is “director of inspirational leaders.”
It has been a tough year for Ms. Maples. Her father had a small stroke. Her mother was told she had breast cancer. In June, Chuck Jones, the publicist from the Trump years who went to prison for stealing and having “a sexual relationship” with her shoes, was again arrested, on charges of sending her threatening e-mails.
In a sign that she may not have the best judgment when it comes to managing her career, a personal assistant admitted to running up thousands of dollars on Ms. Maples’s unused credit cards to buy designer clothing, Botox and breast augmentation. She and her daughter loved the assistant, she said, and she is distraught, but is trying to make light of it.
She is single. She said she is not looking, but is allowing. And she is convinced that her next partner will not have much familiarity with a boardroom.

09 November 2010

'The Fashion Show' Swaggers into Second Season

Seattle Times

Were it not for "The Fashion Show: The Ultimate Collection," whose second season begins Tuesday on Bravo, our universal impression of the Somali-American supermodel Iman, an entrepreneur who is fluent in five languages, would surely have remained positive. Iman is 55 and looks 37. She designs handbags, jewelry and other accessories for a line called Iman Global Chic, which translates the looks of her African heritage for a Home Shopping Network audience that might not otherwise be exposed to such adventuresome style. Additionally she does charity work for organizations like Raising Hope for Congo, and she is Mrs. David Bowie.

But on "The Fashion Show," where she now appears as judge in chief alongside co-host Isaac Mizrahi, she has permitted herself to be turned into a reality she-wolf: a denigrator of paltry ambition, an angry and insistent muse. The new season of "The Fashion Show," Bravo's response to its loss of "Project Runway" to Lifetime, has a new format, no less lifeless than the previous one. In this re-imagining the ethos is inexplicably communitarian, as 12 contestants are divided into two design "houses" and each house must work every week to produce a collection that is unveiled in a fashion show.

Judges criticize the teams for lack of cohesion, but cohesion is hardly the point, and crimes of synergy are not dramatic enough to animate something like this. The prize ($125,000 and editorial coverage in Harper's Bazaar, now almost entirely inconsequential) is not dealt out evenly among members of the winning house but rather is given to the last candidate standing. So it is in the best interest of everyone competing to produce work that is distinctive instead of subservient to some collective vision. Each week a contestant is sent home with the limp, Iman-delivered directive, "You're out of fashion."

In the initial episode little looks terribly original to the judges, although it is difficult to know how anything could in what now feels like the 129th take on competitive fashion television. The problem isn't with the lack of originality in the clothes but in the lack of anything fresh about the contestants themselves. In some distant otherworld, bizarre scientists are cloning people who say, "When I was 7, I just knew I wanted to be a fashion designer." (These words are spoken by someone called Jeffrey about six seconds into the "The Fashion Show.") Television has brought us a ceaseless supply of men and women between 22 and 45 who labor to seem eccentric and who express precisely that feeling.

"The Fashion Show" gathers every cliché of fashion-television contestant: the nice person with the sad story, the self-important dispenser of Diana Vreeland-esque nonsense, the mean guy/girl and so on. In addition to Iman, who gets peeved when designs don't adequately reflect her Iman-ness, there is a Bazaar editor, Laura Brown, who also serves as judge and believes she is really bringing the butcher's knife down when she tells a contestant that a certain design looks as if it came from Strawberry. Here the wounds don't need stitches.

03 November 2010

Angels in Stripper Heels

NY Times

This is how an angel earns her wings. First, she is born, in someplace like Belarus or Florianópolis, the spot in southern Brazil where an awful lot of folks with German names fetched up over the centuries, or, well, Saskatchewan.

Then the angel grows up pretty. (There are no homely angels.)

Next, the angel is discovered, most likely in a mall.

The angel, at this point, does not realize she is an angel, because the process of becoming an angel requires time and guidance and support and miracles and, O.K., occasionally a sleazy boyfriend, as well as a decision at some point by Steven Meisel, or by some other star-making fashion photographer to choose a woman from among the thousands who would gladly sign away their firstborn for a chance to appear in front of his lens.

Although it is doubtless the dream of untold numbers of hopefuls to be discovered at a Victoria’s Secret open call some day — their beauty so radiant that they rise above the ranks of ordinary flesh-and-blood humans and appear as dazzling supernovas in underwear and stripper heels — the truth is that those destined to be cast in the coveted role of a Victoria’s Secret angel are not drawn from the general population. There is no democracy in angel land.

“We cast 30 models, but 10 times that many are sent to us by the agencies to be considered,” Edward Razek, the chief marketing officer for the Limited Brand, the parent company of the lingerie powerhouse, said last week before a casting session for this year’s Victoria’s Secret show, which will be televised on Nov. 30 to 11 million people in 185 countries, but will be taped before a more modest crowd in New York on Nov. 11.

“And 100 times that many would want to,” Mr. Razek said. “That’s why I hate castings, because I’m basically a softy and I hate the broken hearts and I hate saying no.”

As it happens, “no” is seldom heard at a Victoria’s Secret casting, at least not within earshot of the hopefuls. What the aspirants instead hear, during the roughly 120 seconds each is given to present herself to a specially selected panel, are phrases polite and generic enough to be anodyne.

They hear, “Lovely.” They hear, “Thank you for coming.” They hear, “Do it again, please, with a little more energy.”

The people who spoke these words one chilly fall morning, on the 12th floor of an office building in Midtown, under lighting that flattered no one, included Mr. Razek and Monica Mitro, the executive producer of the Victoria’s Secret fashion show; Alexander Werz, a fashion show director; John Pfeiffer, a casting director; and Sophia Neophitou-Apostolou and Dan May, two London-based editors (Harper’s Bazaar and the luxury quarterly 10 Magazine) who somehow eke out time in between intercontinental jet crossings to serve as highly paid stylists for global brands.

There were other professionals in the room — production people and a photographer and a small group of assistants who stood beside a wall of model headshots. But the crucial people, the ones deciding the fate of the angels, sat at a folding table about 10 long strides away from a makeshift privacy screen created from a rack of Victoria’s Secret panties and bras.

Behind that screen, for close to three hours, some of the most beautiful beings on the planet, one after another, stripped out of their street wear and underclothes and changed into a generic audition outfit consisting of a satin finish bra, a pair of lace bikini panties and champagne-colored platform heels.

Exiting the makeshift dressing area, these women then walked toward the table casually, or as casually as a nearly naked person can under the circumstances, and shook hands with the Victoria’s Secret crew.

“What people don’t realize is that they’re rarer by far than superstar athletes,” Mr. Razek said of women who fit precise but unwritten physical parameters for becoming a Victoria’s Secret angel. “The numbers of people who can do this are probably under 100 in the world,” Mr. Razek said. “And in the show it’s only 30 girls.” (Actually, there are 33 this year.)

Anyway, people do realize. And, as with most disagreeable facts, they block that one out.

This is worth noting because the fantasy (by merely laying out $53 for a Miraculous Multi-way Gel-Curve Bra one will somehow be transformed into a winged creature resembling Gisele Bündchen or Heidi Klum or Helena Christensen or Adriana Lima or Irina Shayk) is so powerful that the Limited, Victoria Secret’s parent company, posted a 12 percent increase in comparable sales in September over the same period a year ago.

That growth, industry analysts said, was led by the Victoria’s Secret division, which itself posted a 13 percent year-over-year increase. What is more, the company’s October results, to be posted today, are expected to be stronger still. Call it the uplifting Gel-Curve effect.

Nobody that morning was thinking about any of that. The focus of those behind the table was on Carolyn Winberg, a tomboyish Swedish model with a board-flat belly and limited décolletage and well-toned buttocks and blond hair that, like that of so many successful models, had been frazzled by styling until it was the texture of wood shavings.

“Never mind the hair,” Ms. Mitro said after Ms. Winberg had changed, walked, smiled, laughed, turned, laughed and changed again, packing up her T.G.I. Friday’s tote bag and blowing the panel a kiss as she made her way out of the room.

“Carolyn always takes it away on the runway,” said Mr. Werz, the show producer.

“She’s a baby doll,” Ms. Mitro said.

“The body’s amazing,” said Mr. Pfeiffer, the casting director. “She’s got this amazing, 1970s, Sharon Tate-y thing.”

“So much energy,” Ms. Mitro added.

“And energy, grace, poise is what it’s all about,” said Mr. Razek, who added, “You’ve got 16 or 18 cameras on you and the show is broadcast around the world, so you have to bring something special and unique.”

“Anyway, we can always do something about the hair,” Ms. Mitro said.

Next up was Bruna Tenorio, an aquiline Brazilian beauty favored by European designers for their haute couture shows; followed by Chrishell Stubbs, 18, a newcomer with cascades of dark curls; and Marloes Horst, a Memling Madonna in a lace mesh bikini; and Liu Wen, a Beijing native with longer legs than most point guards; and Cameron Russell, a part-time (“very part-time”) economics major at Columbia; and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the woman best known as Megan Fox’s replacement in “Transformers 3”; and Maryna Linchuk, a young woman from Belarus who, although she has already been anointed a Victoria’s Secret angel, was auditioning again this year because, as Ms. Mitro said, bodies do change.

“You don’t see them for a minute, and...” Ms. Mitro said and then fell silent. She held her cupped hands wide in the universal gesture for hips as broad as a barn.

Does it go without saying that no Victoria’s Secret angels are fat? It does. A person cannot be expected to attain the angelic heights on a diet of Tasti D-Lite cone or Cinnabons

“With the smile, the hello, the walk, they get maybe two minutes,” to make an impression, said Mr. Razek, who has worked for the Limited since the early 1980s and who is notably tan and whose enviable shock of graying hair closely matched the salt and pepper flecks in his custom-made socks. “Maybe it’s not even that much.”

Maybe it’s just seconds, which was all it took for Ms. Linchuk to win over the panel, partly because she is beautiful in an uncontroversial and generic blond way but also because she is brisk and efficient and works out five days a week. The model Angela Lindvall, another occasional angel, at a certain point compared her particular line of work with that of a boxer. “You have to make weight,” she said. Ms. Lindvall herself once shed 20 postpregnancy pounds to make angel weight by jumping rope and subsisting on nothing but spinach, chard and kale.

The fitness horizon for a model preparing to audition for the Victoria’s Secret fashion show is perhaps 12 weeks, said Justin Gelband, a personal fitness trainer known in the business as the Model Whisperer. “We’ve been killing ourselves for this show,” Mr. Gelband explained before the casting call, referring to clients like Ms. Linchuk and Ms. Shayk and Anne Vialitsina, a model whose career has risen and fallen over tiny weight gains but whose physique that day was so starkly fit that it elicited a collective gasp.

“This all looks straightforward, but it’s not,” said Ms. Neophitou-Apostolou, the editor and stylist. “It’s not just women of a certain shape or size who can do this, although you might think so. And it’s not such an obvious proposition,” to choose from among so many seemingly flawless female specimens those who will best make the transformation to the status of mythic lingerie seraphim. Few are called, and fewer still are chosen to wear the strap-on wings of a Victoria’s Secret angel.

“The girls actually dream about it,” said Ms. Mitro, referring to the wearing of feathers. Flipping open a scrapbook, she pointed briskly to a photo of a teary model seeming to stagger under the weight of a costume that looked like a something Cher might wear to a powwow.

“These,” she said, “are the wings that made her cry.”

27 October 2010

Fashion in Detroit: Bikinis make a Splash

The Detroit Free Press

The first day of Fashion in Detroit ended today with classic but modern dresses from designer Peter Hidalgo.

From the cleanly constructed woolen shifts — some with elbow-length sleeves, others strapless with menswear-style pockets — to the silky evening gowns with thigh-high front slits, and backs that look like capes, the show was pure sophistication and the highlight of the day.

It’s unfortunate more people didn’t see it.

The turnout for the first day of the two-day event — which is designed to showcase local designers and designers whose work is sold here — was minimal.

Lians Jadan, one of the event organizers, estimated attendance today was about 300 guests, and he said the onlookers were largely from the fashion industry. The location of the shows — the Soundboard at the Motor City Casino — holds about 1,100 people, he said, adding that he expected about 1,000 to show on Saturday.

Today’s round of shows started with a flirty collection by Adriana Pavon, winner of last year’s Fashion in Detroit local designer contest.

From flowing silk dresses to sassy A-line minis, the garments aspire to be the sort of clothes you’d pack for a glam trip to the Riviera. They’re fun without evoking the feeling that you’ve just spent your paycheck shopping in the junior department.

The standout of Pavon’s collection? A strapless evening gown with an icy blue leaf pattern on a silver background.

The swimsuits shown by local designer Trisha Geftos are not for shy girls.

With embellishments such as baby blue fringe hanging from one bikini and the word “love” written in sequins across the butt of another, and with members of the cat and zebra families well represented in still more, you’ve got to love your body and your booty to wear one of these.

Paging Kim Kardashian.

It should come as no surprise that Geftaki brand suits sell in Las Vegas and other glitzy resort areas. In fact, Paris Hilton has been photographed wearing one.

The showstopper was a black bikini woven with black ribbons and sequins and accented with a tiny skirt.

On the runway, Geftos’ suits were paired with big, lush leather bags handcrafted in leather by another local designer, Julie Lindsay. And guess what? Those had fringe, too. They also featured fur and bling.

Other highlights included button-down shirts for men and women with a ’60s vibe by for and a few knee-length coats made from luscious tapestry -- that’s English Laundry, a line from Christopher Wicks, former designer for Hang Ten and Ocean Pacific.

Meant to be influenced by the music of the 1960s and 1970s and mod prints of the era, many of the pieces (back to the tapestry coats) have a rock-n-roll British Invasion/psychedelic vibe.

The button-down blouses, midriff-baring for women as well as longer versions for both sexes, have embroidery embellishments and/or floral patterns that set them apart from the basic shirts you might find at a Banana Republic. A festive touch: up-turned cuffs in prints that coordinate nicely but don’t match the pattern on the shirt.

The gowns and cocktail dresses by Ines DiSanto made big statements. When they were bad, they veered toward flamenco. But when they were good, they were polished and glam.

But no matter what your taste — whether it’s a body conscious, sleeveless, above-the-knee cocktail gown that’s studded with shimmery pearls or ruffled merengue — you will feel more special than anyone else in the room.

How could you not?

While many of DiSanto’s dresses and gowns are strapless or sleeveless, the designer makes clever use of ruching and draping that that can disguise many figure flaws.

Known for her glamorous bridal gowns, the last of DiSanto’s 23 runway looks was a bridal gown with a train and full veil lovely enough for Snow White.

The best look of the show: a strapless, above-the-knee dress with fitted bodice and an A-line skirt. With sequins that sparkled like snow and a bit of fringed tulle peeking out from the hem, the model looked as if she was floating.

25 October 2010

13th China Fashion Week begins in Beijing

Global Times

China International Fashion Week 2011 Spring/Summer will begin today in Beijing with more than 60 events including runway shows, contests, forums and lectures on the program.

Over 30 designers and 50 fashion brands will take part in the week that is now in its 13th year and will run until November 1.

"We have many familiar faces, such as Mark Cheung and Qi Gang, who are like old friends, with more interaction between the Chinese fashion scene and the rest of the fashion world, but we also expect new and fresh things from those old friends," said Chen Yongxia, China Fashion Week's media director. "At the same time, new comers like TSE and JOOOYS may bring surprises as well."

Womenswear, menswear, lingerie and wedding apparel will all be represented, with designers including Donoratico, Lea Seong, Cabbeen and Gioia Pan scheduled to stage shows in venues across the city including 798 Art District and Beijing Hotel.

There are also design contests for young designers and students with five design awards to be presented including sports, leather and makeup. "Young people are the future of Chinese fashion. China Fashion Week always gives them a platform," Chen said. Fashion graduates from several major design institutes will also see their graduate works take to the catwalks.

Forums, debates and lectures will be held, with themes covering the future of fashion media production in a 3G era and next season's trends.

Exhibitions, art and tea ceremonies are expected to add to China Fashion Week's artistic atmosphere.

17 October 2010

Biketoberfest Fans say 'Anything Goes'

Orlando Sentinel

Biketoberfest attendees ogled at more than the slick custom-made motorcycles crawling up and down Main and Beach streets Saturday.

Men stumbled to pull out their cameras as chaps, tub tops and tiny bikinis that barely covered cleavage made it up the street. Some outfits made those of artist Lady Gaga look modest.

Fashion, or lack of it — depending on who you ask — is as much a part of the event as motorcycles. No matter people's sizes or whether they prefer to wear shirts with an American flag or fish nets, attendees say anything goes at Biketoberfest, which ends today.

Mini leather skirts were among the hottest items on sale at Paradise City Biker's Den, store manager Nichole Herron said. But co-worker Chris Kelly, 20, was surprised that the leather thongs weren't going as quickly.

Herron, 30, considers herself more of a traditional biker chic, wearing just jeans and T-shirts. Kelly, who also works as a drag queen, considers himself more of a fashion connoisseur. They offered their thoughts on fashion statements made Saturday. In spite of their comments, Kelly said that at the festival "anything goes" because "bikers don't care."

Mara Tripp

Biketoberfest is like Halloween, Mara Tripp says. "It's the only time I dress up." Daughters Christina and Erin, both in their late teens, buy her outfits for the four-day festival, which she has attended for years. The only criteria: they must be "sexy," the petite woman said.

"They're gifts from my daughters," Tripp, 48, of Port Orange, said. Tripp was selling beer in a black bathing suit and lacey fish-net shirt that draped over her rear. It covered little. She stopped men in their tracks every time she bent over to pick up ice or a cup. They whipped out the camera phones.

Tripp, who has been riding a motorcycle for 30 years, said she would never wear the clothes elsewhere. "No — I'm an insurance agent," she said.

HERRON'S CRITIQUE: "She knows how to get tips. If I looked like that, I would be wearing that, too."

KELLY'S CRITIQUE: "Love the lace. It makes her look slim."

Holli Ingels

Holli Ingels wore white leather chaps over a pair of undies and a low-cut spaghetti-strap tank top. The slender Atlanta woman said all is accepted at the festival and nobody cares how much of you shows.

Friends selected her outfits for the festival. "Just call me Barbie," Ingles, 52, said. She and her friends were looking at some skimpy outfits at a Main Street shop.

"It has to be provocative and classy," said friend John Lippens of Sanford. "I go to sleep, thinking of what she's going to wear."

HERRON: "You can tell her personality from her outfit. She's outgoing, she's not shy … I would never wear that."

KELLY: "Personally, I love it… [but] I think it's too much."

Mike Fair

Mike Fair, 55, decided to go with something more modest. He wrapped an American flag-printed bandanna around his head and wore a heavy jean vest that he customized. The vest, covered in pins, studs and dozens of beer can tabs, took five to six years to make. Also covering the vest were patches of the provocative cartoon character Betty Boop and Marvin the Martian, which matched a tattoo on his right arm.

"I like to be loud. … It's a conversational piece," said Fair, of Davenport. He's right. Several people stopped him on Beach Street to touch the vest and take pictures with him.

HERRON: "I like all the patches. I like the cane."

KELLY: "Very fun outfit, but the man has too much time on his hands."

Cat Miller and Maria Moquin

Cat Miller of Ormond Beach dazzled the blue cast on her arm with jewels. She hurt her wrist trying to decorate her motorcycle, which she says is the most important piece to her outfit. The bike was covered with Halloween decorations, including a artificial vulture, spider and freaky dolls.

Maria Moquin wore a black Mardi Gras mask and top hat. Moquin, of Daytona Beach, said she wore the mask "to cover my face so nobody would know it's me." A Harley Davidson motorcycle owner, she had to ride Miller's Honda into town since she couldn't drive with a cast.

Their fashion rule: wear "the most outrageous thing that won't fly off on our bikes," Moquin, 49, said.

Miller wore a bright orange cowboy hat and large choker with plastic spikes. Although they opted for jeans and T-shirts instead of revealing clothes, the women turned many heads. People stopped to take pictures of them. "We like attention," Miller, 60, said.

HERRON: "That's the typical look at Biketoberfest. … For a little flair, they threw on the hats and mask."

KELLY: "We love cat. We love the hat … [Maria] is a great biker chic with the hat. But the face mask has to go. Why cover a pretty face if you got one?"